Domestic tourism soars in China but foreigners stay away

Domestic tourism soars in China but foreigners stay away
A popular thing to do in Wuzhen is to pose for photos dressed in traditional hanfu clothing

With the Chinese economy facing huge obstacles, there have been concerns over its development possible, at least in the fast coming.

Local hospitality is one of the few notable exceptions that are emerging.

According to statistics released by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, 295 million journeys were made within China during next week’s five-day public holiday to indicate Labor Day. This was 28 % higher than the 2019 pre-pandemic images.

The Transport Ministry’s figures are even remarkable: 92 million road trips, almost 10 million atmosphere outings and 1.25 billion bridge journeys.

However, this comes as international visitors continue to trail, with foreigners already entering China at little 30 % of 2019 levels. Why the gap?

Wuzhen is considered one of China's top visitor sites

The lovely historic river town of Wuzhen, a little push from Shanghai, is considered one of China’s major user places for tourists of all kinds.

Customers flocked to the small waterways’ small pathways and old bridges when we arrived.

Posing for photos in conventional Hanfu attire is a popular activity in Wuzhen, as if you had been transported back in time by centuries.

Two 20-year-old people who have been friends since high institution are coming to visit from northern Jilin Province.

They spend an hour getting their hair done in the complex imperial-era style and are praised for Wuzhen’s classic beauty after arriving.

We inquire as to whether some of their friends and family have been on a lot of travel since Covid’s entry.

Woman selling traditional snacks

” Of course, after the pandemic, we’re all visiting different sites”.

Local business owner who sells ice creams in the local area also claims that tourist numbers have not decreased significantly recently.

As good as before Covid?

” About the same”, he replies.

Wang Ying, a storekeeper of conventional snacks, shares this attitude with a happy experience.

” Business is going well, and it’ll only get better”.

All of this will be welcomed by the Chinese authorities. It has been suggested that a boost to home use would help to stabilize the country’s fragile economy.

Major players in the once-mighty property industry are struggling to stay afloat, regional government loan is rising, and unqualified graduates from highly-qualified universities are uncertain of their future.

Amid all these issues, the Communist Party has set a target of “around 5 %” GDP growth for this year. Academics are also curious about how such a goal can be reached, in any real feeling, in 2024 without significant additional stimulus, despite the fact that analysts have long questioned the accuracy of the nation’s official growth numbers.

A Hilton hotel in Huzhou city

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A more upbeat go picture could be the only lifeline, opening up new business opportunities and employment in the service sector.

According to Schubert Lou, chief operating officer of travel agency, “we’ve seen very strong domestic travel demand, with search volumes in hotels rising by 67 % from last year and flying by 80 %.”

Travel Daily’s Peng Han, a specialist for the hospitality industry, is following the investment landscape to learn how the sector’s potentials are actually perceived.

” With prominent global resort brands- like Intercontinental, Marriott and Hilton- you just have to appear at their progress in China in 2023″, he says. Check the performance targets for these sizable hotel chains in 2024, which have also been set reasonably high. They are very optimistic about the Chinese market’s potential for growth, according to this.

However, Mr. Peng does raise the issue of per capita consumption, which is persistently low, despite the increase in local traveler volume.

Tourists visit the Lujiazui complex across the Huangpu River on the Bund in Shanghai, China,

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He claims that people are searching for good value options because of the Chinese economy’s general uncertainty. They are spending money on vacation and paying for things, but they also do so much more sparingly.

An increase in foreigners ‘ big spending might be a good thing for this.

They simply do n’t travel to China in the same numbers as they once did. In 2019, nearly 98 million international visitors came to the country. Last year it was only 35 million- including business trips, students and the like.

The domestic and international markets are “uneven,” according to Mr. Lou.

For many in the tourism industry here specialising in services for foreign travellers, “uneven” would be an understatement.

Immigration from other nations decreased after three years of harsh Covid prevention measures, but that alone cannot account for the current situation.

Huang Songshan, the head of the Centre for Tourism Research in the School of Business and Law at Australia’s Edith Cowan University, blames this weakness in part to” the shifting geopolitical landscape globally”.

Chinese performer

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He cited a 2023 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in his peer-reviewed East Asia Forum, which stated that” Most people in Western nations have unfavorable views toward China. Travelers from other countries may find the Chinese government’s tightening grip on societal regulations unsettling.

Official travel advice from some governments echo this sentiment, at times quite harshly.

Washington advises potential travelers to “revisit travel to Mainland China because of the arbitrary enforcement of local laws, including those relating to exit bans, and the possibility of wrongful detentions.”

Australia advises” a high degree of caution,” warning that” Australians may be at risk of arbitrary detention or harsh enforcement of local laws, including broadly defined National Security Laws.”

Flight availability and cost have also been affected by the political environment.

Particularly relevant are connections to and from North America. Last month’s 332 scheduled round trips between China and the US contrasts with 1, 506 in April 2019.

Finding seats on a direct flight can be very challenging, and those that are are also very expensive.

Flight availability and cost have also been affected by the political environment.

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Last November, President Xi Jinping addressed this issue during a dinner held on the occasion of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference in San Francisco.

” Today, President Biden and I reached important consensus”, he told the crowd.

” Our two countries will introduce more steps to facilitate travel and promote people-to-people exchanges, including launching direct passenger flights, holding a high-level dialogue on tourism, and streamlining visa application procedures. In the new era, our two countries will make more visits, exchanges, and visits. We also hope to find new friendship stories.

Since then, Washington has reduced the number of flights on Chinese airlines from 35 per week to 50. It is still well short of the 150 weekly trips pre- Covid.

The Biden administration is coming under pressure from unions and US airlines to not increase this any further because, they argue, Chinese airlines have an unfair advantage over them as they have state support, do n’t face the same onerous Chinese regulations, and, crucially, can fly over Russian airspace, making trips shorter and cheaper.

A letter to the US government from the Chair of the House Committee on China, Mike Gallagher, and the committee’s top Democrat representative, Raja Krishnamoorthi, reads:” Should the US- China passenger carrier market expand without the US government addressing these significant issues, US aviation workers, travellers and airlines will pay a hefty price tag”.

According to Mr. Lou, international flight connections are definitely occurring more frequently.

” What we are seeing right now, based on civil aviation data, is that inbound flight capacity wo n’t get back to even 80 % of 2019]levels ] by the end of 2024″.

People try to touch a lion mask during a lion dance performance at a temple fair on the sixth day of the Lunar New Year of the Dragon in Beijing on 15 February, 2024.

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Additionally, there are other potential drawbacks for those who are considering visiting China, such as the country’s state-of-the-art phone app payment and booking systems, which are simple for Chinese residents and residents but can be a real pain if they have just arrived.

There are certain sites, transport options, and purchases which can only be accessed via Chinese electronic apps which are, at times, only available in Chinese.

Expert on China’s tourism economy is Professor Chen Yong of the Swiss EHL Hospitality Business School. He believes that difficulties can arise from apps for booking and payment.

” Technologies such as social network websites, online maps, payment apps, among others, which foreigners have long been accustomed to using, are either unavailable or inaccessible when they travel to China”, he says.

” On the other hand, due to language barriers and user preferences, Chinese alternatives to these technologies are still accessible to foreigners.” Because of how severely it impacts the tourism sector, we must bridge this gap.

There are still a few foreign faces in the crowd, but they are much smaller than in previous years when international travelers arrive in Wuzhen.

An Italian couple says the process of linking up to and using China’s payment apps was a challenge but that it was not insurmountable, though they add, with a laugh, that it is “much, much, much easier” if you have a Chinese friend to help you.

Woman and child pose for selfies

Californian Eliseo claims he has trouble making payments to local businesses that no longer deal with cash and do n’t accept credit cards. His home bank, which has blocked some payments and flagged them as potentially fraudulent coming from China, has also created an additional challenge for him.

Chinese officials have acknowledged that there are n’t as many foreign travelers, but they are now attempting to change this.

Increase the number of nations where citizens who do n’t require a visa to enter is one way they’re trying to draw in more foreign visitors.

According to, this led to a nearly immediate rise in Southeast Asian arrivals.

Transit travelers from more than 50 nations can also stay for a few days visa-free in 23 Chinese cities with an onward ticket.

Hotels with three-star hotels in Shanghai have been instructed to prepare for dealing with foreign credit cards, and a first batch of 50 taxis has also begun accepting them.

However, Professor Chen says “it would be too optimistic to envision a long- term growth in China’s inbound tourism”.

The trick is to create a culture that adapts to the needs of foreign tourists. They should picture themselves as a foreigner who has access to payment apps, mobile devices, and other forms of communication without having a Chinese phone number or native language.

He says that the culture around this ca n’t be changed overnight.

However, in places like Wuzhen, where locals have already returned, tourism companies are hoping that foreigners will eventually find their incredible sites to be too much.

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